From the Source
A couple of days in Venice!
Wednesday 22nd March
On this visit we concentrated on food, drink and interesting oddities, which meant constant walking from Dorsodus in the west and Castello in the East; some ten miles were covered.
The first stop was Venice’s food and fish market just over the Rialto Bridge, in the area to the right of Ruga Degli Orefici. The fish and vegetable stalls display a magnificent range which drew one’s thoughts to lunch. On the way a small art print shop was found in Campo Mater Domini and a couple of prints were bought.
Spain has its Tapas and Pintxos but in Venice it’s Cicchetti – little bar snacks which are unique to the town and best served with wine. Just such a place was found in Campo san Toma. Its name seemed to be Cicchetti – a glass and snack revived us until lunch.
We passed a number of youngsters, one or two had laurel leaf coronets – we assumed marriage was in the air. We found Trattoria dona Oresta at Dorsoduro 3922 for lunch. The place was teeming with families and three young people with laurel leaf coronets. It appeared they were graduates from the university and this was their Graduation Day. Lunch was a wonderful salami platter followed by a prawn risotto. The evening saw us at Osteria da Bacco, Castello 4620, near St Mark’s Square for more enjoyable cicchetti.
Next morning a walk to the parks to the east of Castello and had a coffee at Margherita Greenhouse which was built in 1894 to create a Palm House for the International Art Exhibition of 1895. The structure was reminiscent of Joseph Paxton’s greenhouse at Chatsworth House.
A walk to the west to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. Her collection of modern art was opened in London in 1938 and transferred to Venice in 1947 after she had bought Palazzo Vernier dei Leoni on the Grand Canal. The works are extraordinary to the untrained eye, and an abstract painting by Piet Mondrian is described – “His mature work is a quest for essences, freed from phenomenological burdens, in which the primary colours are charged to convey maximum content through minimal means”
A glass of red restored us and we hurried to Osteria ae Forcoe, Calle delle Bande, for more cicchetti, amongst some delightful morsels the proprietor’s mother’s dish of scampi and soft sweet onion salad was sublime.
More walking then to Osteria del Cason, Calle del Christo 2925for a supper of tomato bruschetta, then ravioli with parmesan and black truffles. – concluding a wonderful couple of days in Venice.
We stayed at the Metropole Hotel near St Mark’s Square at a very reduced rate through TheLateLuxury.com Team
Fromagère de Brie
Thursday 10th December
Brie a cow’s milk cheese, from a limestone and clay plateau to the east of Paris, it is soft textured with a flowery rind.
In 1929 the Fromagère de Brie was formed and is now in a new factory in St Siméon, 10 miles west of Coulommiers.
Louis’ Deli has three Bries from St Siméon.
Brie de Meaux AOC (guarantee of origin) and multi award winner at the annual Cheese and Wine Fair in Coulommiers. Bayard Gourmand , a smooth double cream cheese Brie and a triple cream cheese Brie, St Olivier.
All these Fromagère de Brie cheeses are from their pasteurized range.
Louis' Deli Does Bologna
Tuesday 8th December
The nights are drawing in, the temperature is dropping and it is all the more gloomy when you’ve just returned from a wonderful week in Italy.
We headed to Bologna ready to sample all the culinary delights one might expect in Northern Italy and we were not disappointed. Italy is, of course, the home of the kind of food that brings a million emotions to you with each mouthful (delight, passion, love and the sadness when it is over) and Bologna sits in the heart of this idea. We were whisked off to tour various family-run producers of all the great things we’ve come to love from Italy – prosciutto, balsamic vinegar and parmesan – and treated to such homely hospitality that coming back to our ‘real’ home felt somewhat lacking.
Bologna itself is a town of criss-crossing streets and little alleyways that hide the most amazing cuisine behind closed doors. We stumbled across an amazing, miniature food department store which stocked everything you could dream of, ready to be cooked right in front of you. Fancy pasta when your partner fancies tiramisu? No problem! You can even choose your cut of meat to be cooked before your very eyes – talk about fresh!
The week was a feast for the senses, from delicious food to beautiful sights, aromatic factories churning out our favourite foods to the warm welcome of the locals we came to think of as friends. If you’re looking for a weekend away at any time of the year and have a passion for food, this is definitely one to put on your bucket list.
Tuesday 1st December
As part of our recent Bologna adventure we took a day trip to a parmesan factory, which as you can imagine was a wealth of information and tasty cheese. Parmigiano Reggiano has been produced since the 13th Century, when Benedictine Monks near the Apennine Mountains first began maturing milk into that delicious cheese we adore so much on our pasta. Being a Protected Designation of Origin product, Parmigiano Reggiano has a rich history in Northern Italy and seeing it being made by passionate producers was a wonderful experience.
With an early start, we were dressed up in our finest ‘cheese-making’ attire, complete with little white hat and white apron and shown the entire process from milk to maturing. It takes 16 litres of milk to make 1 kilo of cheese, and that milk is taken from cow to cheese house within two hours. Once a wheel of cheese is made, it is aged for either 24 months to create true Parmigiano Reggiano or 12 months for a Mezzano cheese, meaning ‘half’. Have you ever noticed a cheese marked ‘Extra’ or ‘Export’? This is a sign of superior quality.
The factory itself is an enormous hive of activity, with milk being transported, skimmed, and curdled by hand to produce the most delicious flavours. The sheer scale of the operation was outstanding, with enormous copper drums being stirred like cheesy cauldrons with special whisks called ‘spinos’ and heavy shelves of maturing parmesan being tapped and checked for quality. It is quite incredible to see a room stacked high to the rafters with wheels of parmesan! The smell was wondrous and had our stomachs growling, ready for a true Italian lunch.
If you’re a big fan of parmesan or just fancy adding a little oomph to your meals, we’ve got Parmigiano Reggiano in the deli. It’s perfect grated onto pasta, into soups or even on a simple rocket salad with a little balsamic vinegar.
Prosciutto from Bologna
Tuesday 24th November
Our time in Bologna led us to many incredible suppliers pouring their heart and soul into the products that we love back home, from balsamic vinegar made in a tiny, family-run factory to a enormous hall of freshly-made parmigiano. One of the most interesting stops on our visit was to a Prosciutto factory.
Settled in a small village in the hills of Bologna, this factory is a specialist in the finest ham products – pancetta, disossato and lonzino are all salted and cured here. It was hard not to want to bring everything home. Prosciutto has been made in these parts since the Bronze Age, enjoyed by the Romans and modern-day Italians alike and so the expertise that goes into its production spans generations. This is why Modena Prosciutto has the revered PDO mark, reserved for products of protected origin and joining the ranks of Champagne, Melton Mowbry pies and of course, Parmigiano Reggiano.
The hams themselves are stacked shelf upon shelf whilst salting, then hung for 14months in order to receive their PDO stamp. The sight had our stomachs growling and thankfully we were offered a taster. Cured meats are one of our favourite products at Louis’ and so we are always eager to taste-test the producers’ finest! We’re big fans of supporting local produce (as you may have guessed from our Slow Food events) and the Italians really are streaks ahead of us in valuing this. All of the pigs bred for Prosciutto are raised in Italy allowing complete traceability – something we also value at Louis’.
Whilst we can’t promise you the full Italian experience, here at Louis’ we have a wide range of cured meats, including Prosciutto; perfect for tapas, nibbling with drinks or for use in cooking. If you’re unsure, come in to see us and we’ll be happy to help you choose.
Balsamic Vinegar Adventures
Wednesday 18th November
Everyday is a school day, they say, and that is certainly true of our time in Italy.
The best balsamic vinegar comes from a family ‘Acetaia’, of which there are only a handful. One of these, called ‘Villa San Donnino’, we visited during our time in Modena. The factory itself is little bigger than Louis, but my word do they know how to make vinegar! A small bottle of the good stuff set us back nearly 80€.
When you hear the process it takes to make this tiny bottle, you can see why; twenty years in the making puts it on par with a fine wine. The family have been making balsamic vinegar of the highest quality since 1887 and three generations of producers have been perfecting it ever since.
Traditional balsamic is made from cooked, ripened grapes aged in wooden casks with nothing added. The period of fermentation is what creates the distinct flavours; from 12 years to 25 years, they are worth the wait and best enjoyed with fresh bread and extra virgin olive oil.
Watching the process and the time and care that goes into producing the tiniest bottle has certainly changed my opinion of the humble black trickle I enjoy on my tomato and mozzarella salad. The biggest surprise was seeing the Balsamic being made into jelly, served with ice cream!
If you’re a big fan of balsamic we have plenty of delicious vinegars in stock in Louis, perfect for livening up salads and breads.
Meet the makers - The Intolerant Gourmet
Monday 31st August
This time last week I was sizzling in sunny Spain but back home in Norfolk it feels like autumn has come early. So I've packed away the bikini and, with a long face, brought my cardigans out. My only consolation on days like these is that I can relight my Aga and look forward to all the lovely comfort food that I associate with September. Porridge. Soups. Slow-cooked stews. Sloe gin. Chocolate brownies. Yum.
A few weeks ago I came across a fantastic recipe by one of the deli's suppliers - Pippa Kendrick, aka The Intolerant Gourmet. Writer and blogger Pippa creates exciting and delicious recipes aimed at inspiring food lovers everywhere but especially those who have had to change their diet to accommodate an allergy.
Her Gooey Chocolate Brownies are made using Aduki beans and are gluten free, vegan, egg free and dairy free. I have mixed fortunes with brownies. Sometimes they work, more often than not I make them too dry and crispy. But these, combined with a posh new brownie pan, worked like magic for me and also tasted amazing.
The kids, used as they are to more orthodox cake recipes, tucked into them happily. Obviously I didn't tell them till afterwards that these were bean-based brownies. And that would probably be music to Pippa's ears. One of the best things about her recipes is that although they cater for people with specific dietary needs they're also deliberately tasty and inspiring. Her website is full of recipes - some, like the brownies and cakes, are re-workings of old favourites - others include foreign flavours and foods. Her message is that having food allergies might be a challenge but it doesn't mean you have to give up enjoying eating and cooking delicious food.
Having to avoid certain foods might seem like an annoyance to those of us who can eat anything but for anyone who has been diagnosed with an allery, in the beginning it can feel like a very big deal. Even if your intolerances are small, the list of things you can't eat is sometimes a depressingly long one. You might find that some of your favourite foods have been making you ill and now you feel you have to give them up. It can totally change he way you look at food and how you feel about cooking it or going out to eat.
It was this sense of worry and confusion that inspired Pippa to set up The Intolerant Gourmet.
She is wheat, dairy, soy, egg and yeast intolerant. As a student she became seriously ill with complications that stemmed from an un-diagnosed food allergy and after being in and out of hospital found herself, aged just 21, facing a new way of life where what she ate had a huge and immediate effect on her health.
As she says: "It was a life-threatening situation and a turning point in my life.
"My experience is more dramatic than most, but it has given me an acute empathy for those who suffer from food intolerances and allergies, whatever their stage of health. Diagnosis can come as a great relief, but it is only the beginning of a new way of cooking and eating. In essence, it is a new way of life," she explains.
"I began The Intolerant Gourmet out of necessity for myself. However, it soon became directed by understanding that the fundamental elements of my experience: frustration, ill-health, isolation, and a desire to eat good food, are the same for anyone diagnosed with a food sensitivity. I knew that The Intolerant Gourmet could become an inspiring resource for anyone who has ever felt the loss and restriction that food allergies and intolerances can bring."
As well as writing books and articles and blogging about her food adventures Pippa now supplies allergy-friendly food to several outlets including Louis Deli - lots of customers now come to us specifically to buy her allergy-friendly treats. Chances are you might have eaten them there already without realising what they were.
If you'd like to try her recipes yourself - including Gooey Chocolate Brownies - then find out more at www.theintolerantgourmet.com
Perfectly timed pop-ups
Monday 17th August
Here at Louis we're all getting ready for our next pop up restaurant night. The nights - each of which celebrates a different culinary tradition or country -Taste of Spain, Turkey, Vietnam and Poland for example - started last September and have been a big hit with all of them selling out fast.
Slow Food, Taste of Italy, on August 21, combines delicious Italian food and drink with a chance to learn more about the slow food movement.
For £15 a ticket you get the chance to taste a range of Italian meats and cheeses plus wine from the La Marche area of Italy (in the North East corner). All in the best company, of course!
Let me whet your appetite - Pecorino di Fossa and Vinaccia cheeses, Prosciutto and Salame Magro, white Falerio and red Borgiano wines.
We'll also be showing off SAPA - a non alcoholic 'wine' produced from the skins of the grape that we serve poured over ice cream - its delicious! But you can't take my word for it, so if you'd like a ticket get in touch as we're selling out fast.
Our guest for the evening will be Silvia Venturini who comes from La Marche and now promotes East Anglian Slow Food. Here at the deli we are big advocates of the Slow Food movement whose main aims are to promote good local foods, to preserve regional foods in danger of disappearing and to create networks of like-minded people who can work together to promote these aims.
We were founder members of the Slow Food Anglia approved scheme for businesses (currently there are 32 members across the region) which lists food and related businesses that are recognised as working to promote local produce. Silvia has big plans to boost membership and make this region a real force to be reckoned with. By the end of 2015 we even hope there will be an Awards scheme in place too - we'd love to be nominated in the Best Deli category!
Worldwide membership of the Slow Food movement now tops almost 200,000 in 175 different countries. Its an idea that is really catching on here with English membership having increased by over 400 members in the last four months alone and East Anglian membership growing by 40 in the same time.
If all that sounds good then there'll be the chance to learn more about the movement, our part in it and how other food producers and businesses can get involved by coming along on the night.
Come and have a glass of wine with us!
Here Be Dragons....
Monday 10th August
Is it just me or has everyone gone dragon crazy? Since the Dragon Trail launched last month there's been a huge buzz in the air and I don't think I know anyone who hasn't made their way to the city to admire them. Dragon-selfies, dragon merchandise, dragon-themed duck racing, its amazing that these beautiful artworks have captured our imaginations, and its all in a really, really good cause.
Here in the deli beautiful Hopper, our school dragon, is taking it all in his stride. He's been here for a few weeks now and admires the views from his top spot in the shop front window. He was designed by pupils from Gresham's and combines the school logo (the grasshopper and key) with Keith Haring inspired figurative images. Gresham’s Prep School held a whole school competition to find a winning design. Four designs were chosen, combined, then collaged and painted onto the baby dragon. The winners were Archie Osborne (Year 8), Zelia Holmes (Year 7), Cate May (Year 7), and Elfie Anema-Galpin (Year 6)
If you haven't seen him yet then you must come and admire him before the end of August - lots of you already have and we're very grateful for the loose change and donations you've left in the collecting tin for the Break charity.
Term starts again in September and its back to school for Hopper - we'll really miss him!
The Great British Bake Off is back on our screens and once again I'm watching it with a mixture of dread and admiration. Those who know me well will know I have a curious relationship with baking, shaped in part by last minute late night marathon baking sessions for the school PTA and my tendency to leave things cooking in the Aga for several days, unnoticed.
Take the Christmas I decided to make a traditional festive fruit cake. Maybe it was too much listening to The Archers but on Stir Up Sunday I dragged out my kit and announced to the bewildered family that this year we'd be making a Christmas cake. It diidn't matter that no-one ate fruit cake. There WOULD be carols and sherry and my little cherubs WOULD have so much fun stirring up the cake mixture and carefully dropping in the sixpences.
Half an hour in, the under-fives had thrown cake mix everywhere and sloped off to watch CBeebies, the carols were driving me to distraction and I was left stirring up the cake mix by myself with the demented look of a sleep-deprived mother who'd drunk the sherry. I slammed the cake into the Aga.
Four days later I remembered it. It was pretty awesome. Shiny, crystalline, black, like an expensive cake-shaped lump of coal.
It took five years before I was brave enough to attempt another one. This time I didn't forget it. It came out of the oven looking and smelling perfect. Christmas Eve I slapped icing all over it, in 70s style snowy peaks and went to bed full of triumph.
Next morning I whisked off the tea towel to admire my handiwork and found that one of the cats had walked across it. Next to my snowman were enormous Yeti footprints set in the icing.
So I won't be doing the Bake Off anytime soon. I'm not sure they're ready for my style of baking!
Meet our makers....Butterworth & Son
Monday 3rd August
One of the things we pride ourselves on is our close relationship with our suppliers.
We like our ingredients to come from local growers and producers and we're lucky to have some of the best suppliers right here on our doorstep. We know where our food comes from and who makes it.
But you'd be forgiven for thinking we might not be able to do that with everything we serve. I mean, Norfolk might be known for its carrots but not its coffee beans, right?
Well that's where you're wrong. Our coffee has an East Anglian flavour (pardon the pun) thanks to Butterworths & Son of Bury St Edmunds.
Run by Rob Butterworth, this family business was originally founded in 1976 by Rob's father, Robert Senior. For many years they ran the Butterworths health and herb shop in The Traverse, Bury, a jewel of a shop which smelt amazing and sold all kinds of exotic foods and spices long before you could get them at your local supermarket.
Butterworths has come a long way since then. As well as making its famous chutneys and preserves it has also become well known across the UK for its teas and coffees.
The family has a long background in the tea trade - in the late 1880s Robert’s great grandfather Harry first began blending teas in Manchester.
But 5 years ago they also began roasting their own coffee and taking a greater interest in the sourcing of the it to ensure quality and traceability. They buy coffee seasonally and based on quality which is determined by taste - this method results in a fair price for the farmer and rewards good farming practices as higher quality coffees fetch higher prices on the open market.
All of which really ticks the box for us, with our slow food principles!
In their first year the firm sourced an organic coffee from Peru which was used in the UK coffee Olympics, the Barista Championships, by Howard Barwick who reached 3rd place.
If you're a coffee fan, here’s a little video about it’s journey: https://youtu.be/GtmmRJCBk3E
They use this coffee in their Signature Espresso, the one we use here at the deli.
This blend is made from four components or ‘origin’ coffees (origins being the countries in which the coffees were grown) and has won praise for its high quality - in 2013 it was named ‘Best Espresso’ by the beautifully titled Caffeine Magazine.
In total Butterworths stock around 20 different ‘green’ coffees which they roast individually or use to create a blend. using beans sourced from Central and South America, Africa and Indonesia.
Head roaster Tom Howes is the man in charge of this magical process and he also puts his artistic talents to good use by designing the striking artwork on the firm's coffee labels - it was Tom who came up with the firm's quirky Coffeeman mascot - check out his Instagram account Nodosaurus
So next time you pop in for a coffee, enjoy the fact that you're sipping a prize winning brew!
Pictured are Rob Butterworth & Aurelio Villatoro from Finca La Esperanza, Huehuetenango, Guatemala. Aurelio is a farmer the firm has been buying from for 3 years.
Listening to Ruth Rogers on Radio 4's Desert Island Discs yesterday was a real treat. Despite not being a trained chef, she set up The River Café with her business partner, the late Rose Gray, in 1987 with a strong focus on using seasonal foods and cooking the Italian way.
Today we're used to those ideas but at the time they were seen as pretty revolutionary - as was their idea of having an open kitchen where guests could see the chefs at work from their table.
"I couldn't imagine working anywhere we people shouted or raised their voice," Ruth told Kirsty Young.
Oh its a far cry from Hell's Kitchen! She then treated us to some Woody Guthrie songs and some anecdotes about her formidable Italian mother-in-law who, on her deathbed, advised her: "Ruthie, I want you to put more cream on your face and less herbs on your fish". Magic.
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We have a range of cakes made with gluten free ingredients and a daily vegetarian lunch choice.